Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan has set the cat among the pigeons in the Narendra Dabholkar murder, giving a political twist to the broad daylight murder of one of the country’s most well-known rationalists.
Dabholkar, 67, was running an anti-superstition movement in Maharashtra and had even drafted a bill for the purpose in the late 1990s. He was shot dead in Pune on Tuesday morning.
The Chavan cabinet on Wednesday hurriedly decided to issue an ordinance for enactment of the long-pending bill against black magic, superstition and blind faith. The legislation is the first of its kind in the country and is aimed at banning superstitions, inhuman rituals and black magic that have been used to exploit people in the name of religious beliefs.
However, the damage seemed to have already been done as barely few hours after the incident, Chavan likened Dabholkar’s killers with Mahatma Gandhi’s. “Just as Gandhi was killed by those who could not digest his thoughts, similar way Dabholkar too was eliminated. The way Gandhiji’s voice was silenced, the same has happened to Dabholkar,” Chavan said.
Chavan’s remarks invited criticism from Opposition leaders who accused him of politicising the issue.
Among the initial suspects in the case are rightwing organisations including Sanatan Prabhat and Hindu Janjagruti Samiti. These organisations were opposed to Dhabholkar’s efforts for getting the anti-superstition bill passed by the Maharashtra assembly.
However, the police have not made any arrests so far though Chavan has maintained that “police will catch Dabholkar’s killers and those behind the conspiracy.”
The Bharatiya Janata Party reacted to Chavan’s remarks saying that an “honest investigation is needed rather than making politically-coloured statements.”
Maharashtra CM Prithviraj Chavan pays tribute to anti-superstition activist Narendra Dabholkar in Satara. (HT photo/Raju Sanadi)
“The chief minister’s statement is regrettable. Instead of politicising the issue, what is needed is an honest investigation,” BJP’s Meenakshi Lekhi said on Wednesday.
Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh too jumped into the row. “The incident occurred in the same region where there were bomb blasts,” he added.
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